• December
  • 3 min read

Vacation Club vs Timeshare Explained.

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When people start to vacation more frequently, they get to know what they like.

Maybe it’s a beach resort with beautiful white sand or a cabin nestled in the woods with nature all around.

Some people like skiing every year and others like to travel overseas to experience different cultures and try new foods.

At some point, after years of experimenting and trying out new things, you get to know what you prefer when it comes to accommodations and activities.

– Timeshares and vacation clubs are mostly for people who know what they want.
– Timeshares and vacation clubs are basically the same
– You are essentially buying ” time ” on the property

That’s where timeshares and vacation clubs come in.

Timeshares and vacation clubs cater to people who know what they want. They offer a curated experience that they present to customers and potential clients as a way to guarantee high-level vacation experiences.

But what’s the difference between a timeshare and a vacation club membership? Let’s explore so you know the benefits of each and anything you should be aware of before you buy. Here’s the breakdown:

The Timeshare Basics

Each company will vary a bit in what they provide with one of their timeshares, but on a general level, they are all the same.

With a timeshare, you’re buying a period of time at a set resort. You get a certain apartment or unit that you pay each year for.

You’re getting a share, or a slice, of ownership in a specific place. Based on your package and price, you get certain dates each year.

The more expensive contracts will get you prime dates (a beachfront condo in the middle of summer break or a ski chalet in peak snow season). You can save money by paying for off-peak dates.

Some timeshare companies offer owners variable dates and others are fixed. Variable dates mean you can change the time of your vacation from year to year.

This often involves varying levels of complexity when it comes to bidding on dates or reserving specific timeslots.

Keep in mind that other vacationers are likely to want to book the timeshare in the middle of July or over the Christmas break.

Some ownership plans reserve set dates in perpetuity, while others have a term that lasts for several years, after which you have to rebid or select timeslots. Timeshare plans also include:

Biennial Ownership Plans – These types of plans give owners dates every other year.

They’re a good option for people who don’t necessarily want to travel to the same location every summer or those who want more financial flexibility. These will be less expensive than annual shares.

Floating Timeshare Plans – These floating timeshare plans allow owners to book the unit on different dates each year or every other year.

There is a bidding or booking window each year where you can select which dates, you’ll go to the resort.

It’s a good option for people who don’t travel on the same schedule every year.

Keep in mind, though, that it’s going to be hard to get the best dates every time you bid.

Fractional Ownership Plans – In fractional ownership plans, you’re able to use the unit or room for a fraction of the entire year.

This will often be set according to the number of owners. The fewer owners, the more available dates because the shares are larger.

As the number of owners increases, available dates become smaller. Understandably, timeshares with fewer owners will usually cost more because the cost of owning the apartment or unit will be split between fewer people.

What About Vacation Clubs?

Timeshares get more of the attention because they’ve been around for longer.

Indeed, most people, when they hear about vacation clubs, toss them in the same bag as timeshares when in fact they are quite different. With timeshares, you’re getting the same place that you love.

It’s a great benefit to the sort of people who want to go to the same beach with the same people every summer.

Other folks, however, want more flexibility in their vacation plans. That’s where vacation clubs come in.

When you become a vacation club member, you get a certain amount of points each year to trade in for time and locations.

Higher-end resorts and prime dates will cost more points, and off-peak travel periods and affordable resorts will cost fewer points.

The membership structure or plan you buy into will determine how many points you have to use every year.

So, you can use all of your points on one amazing vacation at an in-demand resort each year or disperse your points over several smaller vacations throughout the year. It all depends on your personal preferences.

Some vacation club plans will let you accrue points you don’t use in one year into the next.

That’s great flexibility. For example, say you have a child’s graduation coming up or want to celebrate a 20th anniversary in two years.

You can start building up your points now to book an incredible vacation in the future. Other plans don’t let you accrue points, and you end up dealing with “use it or lose it” situations come the end of the year.

Some plans will also let you borrow against your future points. So, if you want to go someplace nicer now, you can skip next year’s vacation and use those points this summer.

Timeshare or Vacation Club: Which One Is for You?

Now that you know the basic differences between a timeshare and a vacation club, how do you know which one will serve you better? The first thing you should do is ask yourself these questions.

Do You Vacation in the Same Places?

If you are the kind of person who knows what they like and sticks to it, then timeshares will be the better choice more often.

Some people love the adventure of trying somewhere new in hopes a resort or a new country will blow their mind.

They’re always looking for what’s around the corner and want more stamps in the passport than they had last year.

Others, however, know that their beach club serves the best margaritas, and the water is the perfect temperature.

They also know that the resorts can accommodate their family and the friends they love to travel with every year. These are timeshare people.

Do You Like to Stay in New Resorts?

If you want some flexibility in where you can book vacations, then vacation clubs are the answer.

With timeshare ownership, you’re locked into the same property each year. That may be fine if you’ve found a place you love, but that takes time.

With a vacation club membership, you can try higher-end, lower end, or something in the middle range to find what’s just right for you and your family.

What About Costs?

Costs are another major consideration when it comes to deciding between a timeshare and a vacation club. Timeshare prices are often fixed for the length of your contract.

You know what you’re doing to pay because you’re getting a slice of a specific unit. Vacation club membership costs, however, often increase.

The management will need raises for staff, utility bills go up, etc. All of that trickles down to members in the form of higher membership dues that come out each year.

Before you go into a contract on either, you should, look at what costs could increase over the life of your contract and let that inform your decision.

Some people hate having to increase their spend each year, while others think it’s worth it to be able to enjoy prime real estate and new locations when they travel.

Do You Travel with Family?

If you travel with extended family on vacations together, this will likely also impact whether you go with a timeshare or a vacation club.

Owning a timeshare on a multi-bedroom apartment in a ski resort or next to the ocean is relatively common.

With vacation clubs, you’re usually dealing with smaller places or hotel rooms that won’t accommodate as many people.

As a result, you’ll end up spending more money or points to get somewhere with a lot of people.

If you’re the kind of person who loves traveling with a group of friends or all of the cousins, then timeshare may be your best bet.

A lot of families even own timeshares on the same property so they can each be in their own units at the same time.

Whatever you choose, make sure you do the research before you sign the dotted line.

Too many timeshare and vacation club owners end up jumping in before they’re ready.

Aside from having to deal with the long-term financial obligations of owning a timeshare or a vacation club membership, not knowing your travel preferences is a huge mistake.

You could end up regretting your purchase.

However, if you know what you like and want the ability to lock in vacation dates at nice resorts where you know what you’re getting, then they’re a great vacation option.

The best thing you can do is make sure your decision is informed so you’ll have vacations you can love for a lifetime.

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